WINTER RUNNING – Hints ‘n’ Tips

Winter running, day or night, is special that provides a very different experience to running in the hopefully warm, dry, sunny and balmy days of Spring, Summer and Autumn. In all honesty, winter running for me and many others is often preferable, just a shame we can’t have the same amount of daylight hours as Summer brings.

All running, particularly in the mountains, remote areas and particularly if going ‘solo’ brings an element of danger that must be managed. Winter and extreme conditions do increase risk from many aspects and this article is designed to help you make the correct decisions even before you start any running adventure.

EXPERIENCE

No two runners are the same and experience and knowledge are a key bonus when it comes to any running, especially in challenging conditions. So, firstly, understand yourself and your level of experience. This will make your enjoyment and comfort on any adventure enhanced. As tip, start with short days and as your experience, knowledge and understanding increases, you can then venture farther and longer. Even contemplating multi-day/ fast packing adventures. Read an article HERE.

Ask:

  • What am I doing?
  • Where am I doing it?
  • When I am doing it?
  • What are the options exist to cut short my adventure?
  • How remote will I be?
  • What are the risks involved?
  • What weather can I expect?
  • What is the worst-case scenario?

Preparation is key and assessing what ‘may’ happen on any adventure or run is crucially important to make sure that a day or multiple day’s activity remains safe.

Weather can change in minutes at any time of the year, especially in a mountain environment. In winter the changes can often be far more extreme, a cold dry day can suddenly become wet, windy with sub-zero temperatures. Hypothermia can hit in minutes. Understand this and prepare accordingly.

It’s possible to run across frozen lakes in certain parts of the world.

Solo adventures are invigorating; however, risks are increased significantly in this scenario. Sprain an ankle (or worse) and become immobilized in bad weather and this becomes a high-alert scenario. So, not only should you have equipment and apparel that will help you survive a situation like this, but you should also have technology to make you safe. A mobile phone (with enough battery) is compulsory and a tracking device, such as a Garmin InReach would be a perfect all-scenario safety device that with the press of a button can obtain SOS support. But remember, at all costs, emergency services are not a comfort blanket that allows you to cut corners. Prepare properly.

Running with a friend adds safety and a natural back-up scenario, so consider this. Women in particular may feel far more secure running in company.

When planning routes, think of short cuts, options to deviate to reduce distance/ time and never push on or let ego dictate. The trails and mountains will always be there. Turning back is a strength not a weakness.

Winter playgrounds are fantastic.

Pace, particularly on longer adventures, will typically be slower in winter due to underfoot conditions and weather conditions. In cold, icy and sub-zero temperatures, sweating is not a friend, particularly should you be forced to move slower or stop, so, think about this and regulate pace to help minimize sweat rates.

Finally, it’s always wise telling family or friends when you are going on adventure, where you are going with proposed route and when you will return. This is a great back-up to have others looking out for you. Of course, this doesn’t need to happen for a daily 5 or 10km run.

EQUIPMENT

The equipment you will use and how much equipment you will take will depend on the type of adventure you are undertaking and how long that adventure will take. This harks back to the ‘experience’ as outlined above. Needless to say, winter will almost always require you to carry more. If running on the road and in public places, make sure you can be seen with reflective items.

Read an article on ‘Getting Layered’ HERE

CORE

Keeping your core warm is essential and without doubt using a merino wool base layer (or similar) with an optional small zip neck for your body is key. Merino wool in particular has an ability to retain warmth, even when wet or damp. Top tip: Take a spare base layer in your pack on runs.

PROTECTION and WARMTH

As mentioned in the ‘Getting Layered’ article, you will need to adapt the body layers for the weather you will run in and the weather that you ‘may’ encounter. A mid-layer will provide warm and this can be made of a product like Polartec, Primaloft or Down. Consider balancing warmth, size and weight. On a personal note, I use a Polartec layer as my standard warmth layer and then carry a ‘treated’ Down jacket (this can get wet and still be warm) in my pack as an essential warmth layer. The final layer will be a waterproof with taped seams, this layer will protect from extreme wind and rain. Zips on mid and outer layers add weight but they are essential for being able to regulate temperature.

HEAD

A hat is essential for retaining heat within the body, *“even if the rest of your body is nicely wrapped up, if your head is uncovered, you’ll lose lots of body heat — potentially up to 50% of it — in certain cold-weather conditions.” You can regulate temperature while running by simply adding and removing a hat. Wear a Buff or similar around your neck.

SUNGLASSES

Protect your eyes, particularly in snow. You can get specific lenses designed to enhance vision in winter conditions.

EXTREMETIES

Hands and feet are a huge problem area in winter, particularly if you suffer with Raynaud’s. Keeping your core warm immediately helps keep extremities warmer as the body naturally abandons extremities (hands and feet) to protect vital organs. For feet, just like the core, merino socks are superb starting point for warmth, even if wet. However, if you anticipate feet to get wet repeatedly and in sub-zero temperatures, you will need to think about other options. A good example being neoprene socks that are warm when dry and should you get feet wet, they are designed to retain warmth when wet by insulating the water between foot and sock. You need to be careful of trench foot should feet remain wet for too long. For hands, a merino liner sock is ideal as a starting point and then a mitt over the top adds warmth and insulation. Mitts are always warmer than gloves and if you do not require finger dexterity, they are always preferable for warmth. Consider having multiple mitts of different warmth levels to that you can adapt to the weather. Also consider longer socks that come higher than the ankle, especially important if running in snow. Top tip: Take spare gloves and socks on any run.

LEGS

Shorts are not a good idea in winter, keeping leg muscles warm is essential for comfort and the ability to function properly, so, use tights. Ultimately, you may require multiple tight options starting with a simple Lycra product and moving up to insulated tights with wind blocker. Of course, carrying a waterproof pant with taped seams is also an essential for winter. Add them to your pack and do not compromise, you may not require them for over 90% of your runs, but when you need them you need them.

SHOES

inov-8 Arctic Talon studded winter shoes.

There is no definitive winter shoe and, in many scenarios, the shoe you usually run in will work fine. However, if you have snow and ice, you will almost certainly need to consider other options. There is an in-depth article HERE but for me, a winter ‘stud’ shoe is my go-to for all my runs. In simple terms, it is often a conventional run shoe with metal studs added to provide grip in ice and challenging conditions. They are a game changer. Winter shoes are often insulated so as to keep feet warmer. Top tip: Consider socks and consider that you may wear multiple socks or thicker socks, this may require that you a larger shoe but be careful, particularly in the propulsive phase as this can make the shoe bend differently behind the metatarsals.

PACK

You will almost certainly require a larger pack for winter runs. A 12-15 ltr is probably ideal for long days and if fastpacking, 20-30 ltr would be normal. Top tip: Use dry bags inside to protect key layers and where possible use several that are different coloured, so you know which is an insulating layer and which is an outer layer.

FOOD and HYDRATION

Just like on any run, calories and hydration are essential. Winter and in particular the cold can easily make you forget to drink, make it a habit. Cold and extreme weather will also burn more calories, so, keep the fire stoked. Plan runs that take in a cafe, hut or lodge stop. If you do the latter, you need to balance losing hard earn warmth and then going back out in the cold. This is where carrying a spare base layer can be a great idea. If in remote locations, you need to consider re-supplying. Importantly, streams that provide water in summer may well be frozen in winter. Also, bottles may well freeze if exposed to sub-zero conditions, so, consider insulated bottles, using warm water and maybe keeping bottles in a pack, wrapped in clothing to retain warmth and reduce freezing possibilities.

OTHER ITEMS

The more experience you have, the greater your winter challenge may be. Always have the correct equipment, for example, ice axe, crampons, rope, harness, hand spikes, snowshoes and so on. A Bivvy bag is an essential when in remote locations for safety, in addition, always carry a head torch as a just in case scenario should a run take longer than anticipated.

Read about a winter expedition to the Atlas Mountains HERE

Equipment with tent and sleeping bag.

EXAMPLE EQUIPMENT LIST

  • As a start point, you will be wearing the following applicable to the conditions:
  • Base layer.
  • Mid layer.
  • Hat
  • Gloves.
  • Glasses.
  • Socks
  • Appropriate shoes.

In the pack:

  • Spare base layer.
  • Spare socks.
  • Spare gloves.
  • Insulating layer (down or primaloft)
  • Waterproof layers, top and bottom.
  • Headtorch and spare batteries.
  • Phone.
  • Tracking device.
  • First aid.
  • Bivvy bag/ space blanket.
  • Food.
  • Drink.
  • Battery back-up.
  • Heat pads for hands and feet.

FINALLY

Embrace winter. It’s a great time of year to explore. Respect the conditions and if you follow the above, you will almost certainly have safer and more enjoyable outings. Accidents do happen at any time of the year, in winter, risks do increase so respect the conditions. Accept that you will go slower in winter.

References:

health.harvard

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Hyperthermia on RunUltra

A runner loses heat via sweating. This sweat evaporates on the skin which dissipates heat by convection, assuming that humidity is low enough. Heat stroke will occur when the bodies thermoregulation is overwhelmed.

Overwhelming the body (in simplistic terms) may come from excessive environmental heat (running in a hot climate), running too fast or too hard, being dehydrated, a lack of free flowing air that will help cool the body or a lack of water to splash on the body to cool down.

Read the full article on RUNULTRA HERE

HYPOTHERMIA – Hints ‘n’ Tips

Hypothermia_RunUltra

Let’s be clear here, conditions on the trail, fell or mountain don’t necessarily need to be bad for Hypothermia to set in. Running and moving fast creates heat and a runner can generate a great deal of heat in a short space of time. Imagine a scenario where you are moving fast and you have been travelling this way for say 2-hours. You are warm, no hot! You are a little fatigued, hungry, a little dehydrated and then disaster happens… you fall and twist an ankle.

Suddenly moving becomes impossible and you start to cool.

I probably don’t need to elaborate too much here as it’s very easy to see and visualize the scenario that follows.

Read the full article HERE

Read more on my series of articles for RUNULTRA

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ULTRA? ultra emotional

RUN247 ‘Cavalls del Vent’ 03rd October 2012

ARTICLE LINK HERE by Ian Corless
Wednesday 3rd October 2012

Race report: Ian Corless reports after the Ultra Cavalls del Vent – Spain, September 29, 2012

On a day of rain, cold temperatures and intense racing, ultra running and in particular ultra Skyrunning opened a new chapter in our sport with some really competitive racing by ‘the best’ in the world.

Unfortunately the whole experience was somewhat overshadowed by the news on Sunday morning that Teresa Farriol, aged 48, had passed away in the night due to a cardiac arrest brought on by hypothermia. It was hollow faces, dark eyes and tears in the race hotel as elite runners, race organisers and journalists pulled together. The prize presentation was cancelled and was replaced with a one minute silence in the crowded square.

The Race

Ultra Cavalls del Vent - Spain, September 29, 2012 © Ian Corless

Photos: The start and race winner Kilian Jornet out on the course © Ian Corless

Despite alternative race options available all over the world, many of the worlds best decided to head to Spain and race at the Skyrunning ‘Ultra Cavalls del Vent’, an 84.2km race with 6098m of altitude change.

Kilian Jornet, Dakota Jones, Tony Krupicka, Tofol Castanyer, Miguel Heras, Joe Grant, Philipp Reiter, Anna Frost, Emelie Forsberg, Nuria Picas and Emma Roccaall decided to do battle in what turned out to be an incredibly testing day.

At Refugio Niu de L’Aliga the race format was starting to unfold with Kilian leading the race, followed closely by Tofol and then several minutes back Miguel Heras. Dakota Jones and Philipp Reiter soon came into sight and then Tony Krupicka. Although minutes separated them all, one thing became apparent. It was cold!

Thick mist made visibility difficult and it was biting cold on hands. Kilian seemed in his element running in short sleeves but nearly all the other runners wore jackets. Including Tony!

Emelie Forsberg was the first lady to come into sight. Somewhat of a surprise… not because she didn’t have the ability but because the plan was to ease into her ‘first’ 50 miler. Frosty followed and then a very cool and relaxed looking Nuria Picas.

The cold and constant rain hit the race and the runners hard! Miguel Heras dropped, Tofol had hypothermia, Joe Grant had hypothermia and hundreds more runners had dropped from the race.

Tony Krupicka moved up through the field, moved ahead of Dakota and a format was set. Kilian and Tony swapping the lead and Dakota following.

At Gresolet, Kilian had a two minute lead. As he passed me I asked how he felt? “I am great, it was a little cold but now I am good. I am having fun!”

Tony approached “How you feeling Tony?” “I’m good man, Kilian is just playing with me… all good though!”

Some of the press with me at this point wondered if Tony would win? To be honest, no disrespect to Tony but Kilian seemed in control and was glad of company. Dakota was now some 30 min in arrears with Philipp Reiter in fourth. This order remained until the final climb when Kilian accelerated leaving Tony behind. Kilian crossed the line in a new CR of 8:42:22. Tony crossed the line in second, also beating the old CR too with 8:49:56 and Dakota finished in third in a time of 9:26:25.

Ultra Cavalls del Vent - Spain, September 29, 2012 © Ian Corless

Photos: Anton Krupicka on the course and Kilian finishing in a new course record © Ian Corless

Tony was stoked at the finish and rightly so. After the best part of two years of being out of the sport with injuries, his ‘return’ now seems to be confirmed. Speaking of his love for Skyrunning he said on the line “These are the races we want, vertical gain, tough gnarly climbs and altitude. We can’t get this at home, I love it”

Dakota was happy with third, but said he had hoped for better and that he never felt quite on his game!

Emelie Forsberg in the ladies race pushed ahead and at one point had a 15 minute lead, with Frosty and Nuria chasing. However the gap was closed and over the final two hours a battle started. My money was on Nuria, she had told me at ‘Kima’ that this was the race she wanted and I guess it showed. In the latter stages Emelie was dropped and Nuria ran into the finish, victorious in 10:34:42, beating her 2011 winning time by over an hour. Frosty finished in second 10:35:24 and Emelie jumped for joy in 10:39:51.

Ultra Cavalls del Vent - Spain, September 29, 2012 © Ian Corless

Photos: Anna Frost on the course. The women’s podium: third placed Emelie Forsberg, winner Nuria Picas and Anna Frost, second © Ian Corless

Frosty said “Everything hurts. I won’t be able to walk tomorrow. I dug deeper that I have ever had to go, I am happy for Nuria and I am happy for me”

Emelie in only her second ultra and first 50 miler was elated. She told me “I felt really good and still do. My legs are not hurting but it was [my] mind… in the latter stages when I had to fight I couldn’t focus but I am super happy”

Cavalls del Vent was an incredible day. It showed us all what is great about our sport. Wonderful courses, great running, new runners showing potential for the future, established runners confirming that they are the best, a return to form for Tony and of course immense comradeship. In the hotel ‘Press Room’ I was surrounded by all of them… Kilian on the sofa chatting, Tony and Dakota on the web, Frosty and Emelie giggling, Philipp and Terry discussing the next time to pose naked. All individual, but all one.

Ultra Cavalls del Vent - Spain, September 29, 2012 © Ian Corless

Photos: An emotional race – smiles from Anton Krupicka, a hug for Nuria Picas and more smiles from Britain’s Terry Conway © Ian Corless

Cloud confuses and distorts “less cloud MORE SKY“

The next event in the Ultra Skyrunning series is ‘Templiers’ in the South of France. The date is October 28th and rest assured I will be at the race to bring you images, stories and a podcast from the final race in the series.

Men’s results

1 Kilian Jornet Burgada 8:42:22
2 Anton Krupicka 8:49:56
3 Dakota Jones 9:26:25

Women’s results

1 Nuria Picas Albets 10:34:42
2 Anna Frost 10:35:24
3 Forsberg Emelie 10:39:51

Click here for full results

Ultra SkyMarathon® SeriesSPAIN: TRANSVULCANIA ULTRA MARATHON – La Palma – May 12
USA: Speedgoat 50K – Snowbird, Utah – July 28
ITALY: Trofeo Kima UltraSkyMarathon® – Valmasino, Sondrio – August 26
SPAIN: Cavalls del Vent – Cadi-Moixeró Natural Park – Pyrenees – September 29
FRANCE: La Course des Templiers – Millau, Grands Causses – October 28

Click here to find out more about 2012 Skyrunner® World Series